Love trees? Set up paper recycling in your classroom!

Have you ever looked through your classroom trash can? What do you see? Chances are it’s made up of mostly paper which can be easily recycled into new paper products! Recycling in your classroom is one of the easiest things you can do at school to reduce your campus waste.

Toolkit Details


This toolkit address the following Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) within the Performance Expectations of NGSS for Grades: K-2 and 3-5

  • Asking Questions and Defining a Problem
  • Planning and Carrying out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • Obtaining Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Learning Objectives

  • Analysis
    • Students will analyze their classroom waste to determine which items can be recycled
  • Project Management
    • Students will set goals to determine how much waste they will divert from landfills. 
    • Students will identify routines to accomplish their goals. 
    • Students will practice leadership by educating each other on correct recycling
  • Evaluation and Assessment
    • Students will track and evaluate the impact of their project

Why It’s Important

Our landfills are quickly filling up with materials  such as paper that can actually be recycled to be used again. In order to reduce the amount of waste in landfills, it is important to sort out recyclables to get them to the right place. This reduces the amount of trash in the environment and allows us to reuse valuable resources.

What You Will Accomplish 

Students will take action by sorting through and recycling their classroom waste.

Educator Project Plan

Follow the steps below to set up a successful Trash Free Lunch at your school! Need help? Contact us!

Track your metrics and submit your impact after implementing this toolkit. Your feedback helps keep our programs free for all across the globe.

Determine Participants

Use the Classroom Recycling Sign-Up Sheet to gather participants.

  • A Student Group such as (a club, before/after school program, non-school organization)
  • A whole class
  • The whole school

Why Should You Set Up Classroom Recycling

The resources provided can be shown as a slideshow or printed out as individual worksheets for students to learn.

Trees Are Healthy for the Environment!

Trees provide many benefits to the health of both people and the planet. They provide shade, cool neighborhoods, they create habitats for birds/wildlife, and prevent soil erosion. As trees grow, they help slow down climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air, storing carbon, and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. [1]

Paper Cuts Down Trees

Paper making has an impact on the environment because it destroys trees in the process. According to data from the Global Forest Resource Assessment, roughly 80,000 to 160,000 trees are cut down each day around the world with a large portion of that being used to make paper. This contributes to global deforestation which in turn is a big cause of global warming and climate change.[2]

Paper Can Be Recycled Multiple Times

Recycling paper is very important in reducing the environmental impact of paper manufacturing. Paper can be recycled about 5 to 7 times before the fibers become too short to be reused and using one ton of recycled paper can prevent 17 trees from being cut down. [2]

Why is Waste a Social Justice Issue

Waste is an environmental justice issue due to the inequities that exist between different communities. Wealthy neighborhoods are often given more resources to manage waste, such as street sweeping, more trash/recycle bins throughout the community that are picked up regularly, while communities with residents of lower incomes are frequently not offered the same services which results in more waste left behind. Furthermore, the same communities with lower incomes are usually placed in close proximity to waste management facilities where additional pollution burdens individuals.

Watch these two short videos to learn why it’s important to recycle in your classroom!

Think About It!

Pre-Activity Questions

  • What are the most common types of waste you see in your classroom trash bin? 
  • What types of products do you think paper waste can be recycled into?
  • What are some ways to conserve paper other than recycling?
  • Why is sorting and recycling waste important for the environment?

Take Action: How to LAUNCH Classroom Recycling

Lead students through the “Classroom Recycling” activity with guided instructions. Check out “Pro Tips” with each step for useful help:

1. Get Organized

  • Choose 1-3 students to empty the bin weekly (or as needed) into a larger recycling dumpster or bin on campus.
  • Use the Classroom Recycling Sign Up Sheet to invite class members to participate.

If your classroom has rotating classroom jobs, add this to the list of responsibilities.

2. Conduct a Pre-Audit

To understand how waste is managed at your school, it is important to conduct a pre-audit; this can be completed using the Classroom Recycling Audit Worksheet. Keep note of what you analyze and compare them with your final results at the end of the campaign.

3. Identify a Location

Talk with your campus custodial team to determine where campus recycle containers are kept on campus. This may be a large dumpster or rolling recycle carts. Work with the custodial team to determine the best way for students to empty classroom recycling into these containers.

4. Prepare Your Materials

There are many ways to get a recycling bin for your classroom. Bins can often be requested through your school district or district waste hauler. If these are not available, then a recycling bin can easily be made out of empty boxes and could be a fun classroom art project.

Printing paper usually comes in cardboard boxes that are easily remade into classroom recycling bins. Have your class decorate the bin to make it uniquely your own.

5. Educate Students

Educate and let people know about your sorting project! You can do this by choosing a few student leaders who will present the provided Classroom Recycling Walking Assembly Script to their classmates.

Reach out to your local waste hauler to see what resources they accept for recycling.  

Once your classroom has learned what and how to sort waste, pick student leaders to educate other classrooms on campus.

6. Sort It Out

Now it’s time to put all your hard work into practice! Set your classroom recycle bin next to the trash can and start your classroom sorting. Students responsible for emptying the recycle bin weekly should track their progress with a second Classroom Recycling Audit Worksheet. Collect sheets weekly to keep track of your impact.

Check with your school’s waste hauler to see what can go in your classroom recycling bin. Soiled paper or paper with crayon/paint on it, cannot typically be recycled.

Reflection Questions

How’d It Go?

  • What were some good things that happened during your project?
  • What could you do to improve your project next time?
  • What other ways could you keep trash away from landfills?
  • How often does your recycling bin fill up?

Report Students’ Impact

Congratulations!! You’ve implemented Classroom Recycling! Don’t let all that hard work go unnoticed. Submit your results by clicking the green button below.

Project ongoing? No problem! Let us know what you’ve done so far. 

By reporting your impact, Grades of Green can:

  • CELEBRATE and elevate your students’ hard work and success. 
  • Offer our programs FREE for all students across the globe. 
  • AWARD stipends and certificates to hard-working educators and students.

Please take a few minutes to submit your results. Thank you!

Provided Resources

Congrats on completing the Classroom Recycling Eco-Toolkit! 

Did you enjoy this toolkit? Find your next project here


This toolkit and its resources were inspired by the LBUSD Think Green Program.